Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Last House on the Left

Written, edited and directed by Wes Craven, The Last House on the Left is the story of two teenage girls who come home from a concert where they get lost in the woods and are tortured by a gang of thugs who would later meet with one of the girls’ parents. Inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, the film is an exploration of two girls taking a wrong turn and the reaction of one of the girls’ parents when they find out what happened. Starring Sandra Peabody, Lucy Grantham, David A. Hess, Fred Lincoln, Jeramie Rain, and Marc Sheffler. The Last House on the Left is a gritty yet intense film from Wes Craven.

The film follows a young woman celebrating her 17th birthday with a friend as they’re about to go to a concert where they encounter some fugitives in the city and later be taken to the woods in an act of torture. It’s a film that is about what happens when two young ladies meet some very bad people who would beat and torture them only to later meet one of the girl’s parents where they find themselves in some serious trouble. Wes Craven’s screenplay starts off innocently as it follows Mari Collingwood (Sandra Peabody) who had turn 17 as she and friend Phyllis Stone (Lucy Grantham) go to New York City for a concert as they want to score some weed after the show. They meet a young man named Junior (Marc Sheffler) who says he can get them some weed as he’s really part of a gang of fugitives. By driving back to Mari’s home, they go nearby to the woods and create a whole lot of trouble and torment with Junior being the most reluctant to be involved.

Craven’s direction is engaging for its simple approach as much of it is due to its low-budget look and feel. Shot on location in New York City with bits of it on Long Island and many of the rural locations in Westport, Connecticut, the film does play into something that starts off very calmly as it is set in this small town where everyone knows each other. While Craven would use a few wide shots, much of his compositions emphasize more on close-ups and medium shots to play into the terror as well as some of the film’s offbeat humor as it relates to a sheriff (Marshall Anker) and a deputy (Martin Kove) trying to get a ride as they learn about the fugitives. Still, Craven is focused on the terror that is happening during the course of the film as much of the shocking content in violence comes during its second act.

Also serving as editor, Craven would put in bits of style in jump-cuts to play into the suspense which would increase during the third act when the fugitives arrive at Mari’s home where Junior would learn whose house he’s in and who the people at her home are. What would happen becomes intense as well as scary showing what happens when the bad guys would come into the wrong house. Overall, Craven creates a thrilling and intoxicating film about a group of fugitives who enter the home of one of the victims they torment and put themselves into trouble.

Cinematographer Victor Hurwitz does excellent work with the film’s grainy and grimy cinematography which plays to its low-budget look in all of its glory while displaying that grittiness for the scenes at night as it is one of the film’s highlights. Costume designer Susan E. Cunningham does nice work with the costumes as it stylish for what many of the characters wore during the early 70s. The sound work of Jim Hubbard is superb for the natural approach to sound in the way some of the objects sound as well as the way gunshots and such are presented. The film’s music by David Alexander Hess is fantastic for its mixture of rock, folk, and country to play into the different tones of the film as the soundtrack also play into those genres.

The film’s wonderful cast include some notable small roles from Ada Washington as a chicken truck driver, Steve Miner as a taunting hippie, Ray Edwards as a postman, Marshall Anker as the town’s sheriff, and Martin Kove as the somewhat-dim deputy. Cynthia Carr and Gaylor St. James are terrific in their respective roles as Mari’s parents in Estelle and Dr. John Collingwood who become concerned when their daughter doesn’t come home until they realize the visitors they invited into their home. Marc Sheffler is superb as Junior as a junkie who would lure Mari and Phyllis later to his own regret as he doesn’t approve of what the gang is doing as he later feels guilty. Jeramie Rain is fantastic as Sadie as the lone woman of the gang who likes to terrorize the ladies as she also has lesbian tendencies toward them.

Lucy Grantham is excellent as Phyllis as Mari’s best friend who takes her to the city for a concert as she is forced to strip and humiliate herself in front of the fugitives who torment her. Sandra Peabody is brilliant as Mari Collingwood as a 17-year old woman hoping to have a fun birthday only to have the worst time of her life upon encountering the dangerous fugitives as she tries to survive the torment she endures. Fred Lincoln is amazing as Fred “Weasel” Podowski as one of the two fugitives who has escaped from prison as someone who is sleazy as well as having no qualms in killing someone. Finally, there’s David A. Hess (who is also the film’s music composer) in a remarkable role as Krug Stillo as Sadie’s boyfriend who is also a fugitive that has a love for killing people as he would also be the most brutish of all of the fugitives.

The Last House on the Left is an extraordinary film from Wes Craven. Featuring a superb cast, a grimy look, offbeat tones, and an eerie story of torment and invasion, it’s a film that is definitely quite intense in terms of the violence as well as what people would do to make someone’s life a living hell. In the end, The Last House on the Left is a marvelous film from Wes Craven.

Related: The Virgin Spring

Wes Craven Films: (The Hills Have Eyes) – (Stranger in Our House) – (Deadly Blessing) – (Swamp Thing) – (Invitation to Hell) – (Nightmare on Elm Street) – (Chiller) – (The Hills Have Eyes Part II) – (Deadly Friend) – (The Serpent and the Rainbow) – (Shocker) – (Night Visions) – (The People Under the Stairs) – (Wes Craven’s New Nightmare) – (Vampire in Brooklyn) – (Scream) – (Scream 2) – (Music of the Heart) – (Scream 3) – (Cursed) – (Red Eye) – (My Soul to Take) – (Scream 4)

© thevoid99 2017


Anonymous said...

This is one of those movies that I've heard a lot about, but for some reason haven't seen.

Alex Withrow said...

You're so right, the consistent close-ups and medium shots add to the overall terror and dread of this movie. This thing is so damn disturbing, but so damn effective. Great horror.

thevoid99 said...

@vinnieh-See it. It's a must for anyone that is interested in the works of Wes Craven.

@Alex-Agreed. It was on HDNet channel and I had to watch it out of respect for the late, great Wes Craven.